Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, has taken a turn in the national spin cycle of select sound bites. And he says he has had all he can stand.
What put him over the edge? The Republican National Committee’s Web-site with a petition asking supporters to assert: “I stand with Cory.”
How the Democratic mayor and surrogate of President Obama’s re-election campaign becomes a poster-child of the RNC starts with a few words which Booker now says he chose poorly in his appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The mayor said he found it “nauseating to the American public” that partisans on one side of the election contest are attacking the record of Bain Capital, the company where Republican Mitt Romney made his fortune, while partisans on the other side would attempt to connect Obama with the incendiary words of his former pastor in Chicago, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
By the next day, the Romney campaign was running an ad asking, “Have you had enough of Obama’s attacks on free enterprise? His own supporters have.”
The ad opens with Booker, on that “Meet the Press,” saying, “I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity.”
Booker amended his remarks with his own YouTube statement Sunday night. And yesterday, in Chicago, Obama drew a line between the obvious business goal of a private equity firm such as Bain, which is to maximize profits, and the claims of Romney that he knows what it takes to get the economy going again. The president is in the business of job creation, he said, Romney was not.
Booker also said he wasn’t planning to say anything more about all this until he saw the RNC Web-site featuring his face on the front page.
“It wasn’t until the GOP went across that line that I said, ‘Forget it, I’ve had all I can stand and I can’t stand no more,”” the mayor said on Rachel Maddow’s program on MSNBC last night. Attempting again to explain his comments on “Meet the Press,” he said: “My outrage, and really my frustration, was about the cynical negative campaigning, the manipulating of the truth, and so here they are plucking sound bites out of that interview, to manipulate them in a cynical manner, to use them for their own purposes.”
In the circle of commentators around this debate, Booker’s words have been received widely as the classic Washington gaffe: accidentally speaking the truth.
But Booker claims he is a victim of that other Washington art: the slicing of the sound bite.
Republicans standing by Booker?
“I have not seen a Republican national candidate, with maybe the exception of Jack Kemp… be willing to stand with me,” he said. “Anybody in the GOP who wants to stand with me, please… stand with me on marriage equality…stand with me on making health care more accessible to all.”
“I stand firmly with the president,” Booker said. “What really, really has me frustrated is not only does the GOP tend to overlook urban areas… the one time they do seem to pay attention to it, they just want to exploit and manipulate a mayor who, for my entire career, has been standing for something different.”
And, as for that YouTube amendment of his “Meet the Press” appearance, in which he maintained that Romney’s business record is “fair game:”
“The reality is, the Barack Obama team, in the White House and their political team, have been good to me for many many years,” Booker said. “They have never pressured me to do anything. They have done nothing but encourage me. In this case, in particular, I certainly did talk with campaign officials. But they didn’t do anything to pressure me.”
Yes, he said last night on Maddow, he had “conflated” attacks using Wright with attacks based on Bain. But “those can’t even be equated.” Pointing to “the noxious nature” of some of the underground campaign talk about Obama, Muslims and more, he said: “You can’t even equate the negativity.”
Still, the day is young, and the news cycle has churned another series of comments that could be ripe for selective airing. This one has the feel of a cycle that hasn’t yet run its course.